Archive for the ‘What Clients Want’ Category

How Do You Overcome the “I Need a Person in the Office” Argument?

You don’t. ;)

You’re barking up the wrong tree.

That person wants and needs an employee. And that’s not what you are. You’re not a substitute employee.

Which is the second part of the problem. You are still thinking of yourself as—and trying to sell yourself in the context of being—an assistant.

Remember, when you are in business, for both legal and practical reasons, you are not anyone’s assistant.

I want to challenge you to think about what you do, what you are and what administrative support is, apart from and outside of the context of assistant.

When you do that, you realize that you are an independent professional (not an assistant) with a particular specialization and expertise to offer (administrative support) in the same way that an attorney is an expert in the law and an accountant is an expert in financial matters.

Once you raise your consciousness about that, you will begin to see and define your role differently, which will lead you to market differently, which will draw and attract an entirely different audience, one that’s not looking for temps or substitute employees, but an alternative to those things.

Marketing Isn’t About You

Marketing is not about you, it’s about your clients and prospects.

So if you are feeling like you are “bragging” too much, that’s a good sign you may be talking about yourself too much entirely.

Clients want to see their needs, interests, challenges, problems, pains and concerns reflected in your message and conversations.

They want to see that you get them, and in “getting” them, they feel that you have insight into how to solve those things for them.

Focus your marketing message not on you, but on what kind of difference you can and do make in your clients’ lives and businesses.

Which Category Do You Fall Into?

I was going through some old listserv messages the other day that I had saved for one reason or another and came across one where a Virtual Assistant was lamenting about possibly losing a client.

She had learned inadvertently that this client was seeking a new VA, and she was upset that she hadn’t been told about it directly.

She complained that she had bent over backward for this client, and the client hadn’t mentioned a word to her or given her any indication about being unhappy with her work.

While it is understandably upsetting when people aren’t upfront, I still couldn’t help but notice her poor writing skills.

She used the wrong spelling of certain words, didn’t punctuate her sentences properly, etc. It naturally made me wonder if this was any indication of her skill level and competence. Because if it was, it could explain the reason the client was seeking someone else.

Everything we do as administrative experts is a demonstration of our skill and competence (or lack of it, as the case may be).

Language and written communication skills are integral to everything we do. If you aren’t able to communicate clearly and coherently with clients in proper form, we can’t honestly be upset with them if that poor communication doesn’t inspire their confidence.

They want their work to be as professional as it can be. How can they trust that you can accomplish that if you don’t show them a command of the necessary language skills?

I don’t know if this was the case or not with this VA, but it did lead me to another thought… that there are basically two categories of people in our industry.

  1. There are those who take healthy pride in the administrative skills and talents they possess. They elevate their work to the level of craft, of art. They are able to apply abstract, critical thinking to not just do the work, but do it really, really well. Beautifully even.
  2. Then there are those who got into this industry because they heard it was a way to make some extra money. They sit passively waiting to be told what to do (sometimes even how to do it!), and are either unable or unwilling to exert any more effort or thought beyond the literal request.

Which category do you think provides more value for clients? Which creates more ease for them and inspires their trust and confidence?

Which do you fall into?

Dear Danielle: What About References?

Dear Danielle:

What do you think of prospective clients asking Virtual Assistants for references? –DE

I think when clients ask Virtual Assistants for references, they:

a) aren’t understanding the nature of the relationship, and/or

b) aren’t feeling the trust/competence/credibility that good demonstration of those things would give them.

Yes, we get irritated with some clients. Some clients are just looking for a free ride or intentionally trying to get what amounts to an under-the-table employee. I have no love for those types.

But other clients (I think probably the majority) are only misinformed because the Virtual Assistant world itself is the one misinforming them and setting the wrong expectations.

I know we’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. The VA industry is still stuck in employee-mindset.

Virtual Assistants have got to stop with all the references and comparisons to employees. All that is accomplishing is making clients think that you are some new kind of employee. Your job as a Virtual Assistant isn’t to replace employees. Some businesses and some workloads simply require an employee.

Virtual Assistants, on the other hand, are more administrative consultants. They should be representing a higher, more professional level of skill sets for clients who want greater expertise and who have administrative workloads that don’t require an employee.

You have to show and tell clients how to properly seek out a professional (not an employee). They don’t necessarily know how to do that. When the Virtual Assistant world stops marketing and comparing itself to employees, those requests for references will go down considerably.

But here’s the other part of the issue… when clients ask for references, a lot of times it’s because they just aren’t getting what they need to trust that they’re hiring a pro, an administrative expert. Where they get that is through your presentation of yourself and your business. That means, you have to demonstrate skill, competence, legitimacy, credibility and qualification in all that you do… in the visual design and display of your website, in your marketing message, in your speaking and writing, everything. Because when you do that, you are instilling in them the sense of those things. They don’t feel the need then to look or ask for additional “proof.”

So if you are getting lots of requests for references, it’s a signal that your presentation, your image, your message, etc., may not be up to snuff. That’s a good time to go through all your collateral and see where you might be losing them. You might even want to get the help of a pro to give you feedback on where you might be falling short and help beef things up.

Now as far as marketing goes, it’s always a great idea to have testimonials from current or former clients. Provide full names, pictures, urls and contact info if the client agrees to that. Be sure and intentionally use and reinforce the term “testimonials” by the way. Very important. You want to steer clients away from confusing you in any way with an employee. So if a client asks for references, you could say, “Oh, you mean testimonials? Of course!” and you can then steer them in the direction of the testimonials on your website.

The other thing you can do is have a more elaborate or in-depth sheet that you can provide to clients who are further along in your consultation process. And if they still want to talk to someone in person, all you need is one or two clients who are agreeable to giving out their contact info and then save that info only for the most serious of prospects. Remember, the last thing you want to do is inconvenience any of your past or current clients with constant phone calls and emails from your would-be clients so dole that info out judiciously.

But at the same time, I will tell you that if you are meeting all the other tests of credibility and demonstration of skill and competence in everything else you do, requests for further references and “proof” are going to be little to none. In over 12 years of business, I cannot remember a time that I have ever been asked for references.

What Do Clients Want?

Professionals!

I can’t tell you how many times I hear from business owners how frustrated they are with Virtual Assistants who don’t “own” their role as the administrative experts.

If you are just sitting around waiting for clients to tell you what to do, you are nothing more than an employee.

Clients who are seeking Virtual Assistants, TRUE Virtual Assistants, don’t want an employee—they want an expert who not only competently executes work and manages projects, but also commands their own business.

Clients want and expect us as the Virtual Assistant administrative experts to guide them, to have some answers and to lead the way by their side toward instilling strong administrative foundations in their business.

I’ll share some comments I received most recently from a business owner:

“I have worked with Virtual Assistants for the past year, but I am not finding the perfect fit for both of us. I am definitely looking for someone who sees me as a client and partner, rather than a paycheck. I need a professional who has the entrepreneurial, pro-active leadership, but I have been attracting Virtual Assistants who still have an employee-follower mentality.

“I don’t mind a short learning curve, but I can’t do the hand-holding past Virtual Assistants have required. I need someone who can basically hit the ground running and start moving some tasks off my plate. Rather than me giving them a checklist and constantly following up to make sure the tasks are done within the deadlines, I would love someone who gives me a list of the things they need from me to get going and checks in to tell me tasks are completed.”

As the founder of the Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce, and a practicing Virtual Assistant, I hear this lament from business owners over and over.

Helping Virtual Assistants free themselves from the shackles of employee-mindset and lead them into true business ownership—and true service to clients—is one of the foremost goals of my organization.

I recently shared some of my best kept secrets to Virtual Assistant business ownership and success in my new guide, “Getting and Keeping Clients–The Plan.” (This is GDE-34 in our forms store.)

Getting and keeping clients is really all about knowing how to work with clients and manage expectations. In this guide, I provide you with meaty information and ideas for creating your “Red Carpet Treatment” plan, implementing a system for ramping up with new clients, and establishing your operational strategy that leads to profitability and client satisfaction.

Virtual Assistance is leaving adolescence and entering adulthood as a profession. Will you be left behind?